Norway's hours of daylight, temperature and driving conditions vary greatly throughout the year. Travellers are therefore advised to obtain specific information about seasonal variations when planning a trip. Note that seasonal variations crucially depend on region as well as altitude. Note in particular that the area with midnight sun north of the arctic circle also has winter darkness polar night when the sun does not rise above the horizon at all.
Norwegian weather is most pleasant during the summer May to early September. If you like snow, go to Norway in December to April. Along the coasts and in southern part of West Norway there is little snow or frost and few opportunities for skiing, even in winter. In the mountains there is snow until May and some mountain passes are closed until the end of May. If you come in the beginning of May some passes can be still closed, but since the snow is melting very quickly, you will get a possibility to enjoy plenty of waterfalls before they disappear. And in this time the number of tourists is very small. Spring in Norway is quite intense due to the abundance of water melting snow in conjunction with plenty of sunlight and quickly rising temperatures typically in May.
Be aware that daylight varies greatly during the year. In Oslo, the sun sets at around 3.30 PM in December. North of the Arctic Circle one can experience the midnight sun and polar night winter darkness. However, even at Oslo's latitude, summer nights exist only in the form of prolonged twilight during June and July, these gentle "white nights" can also be a nice and unusual experience for visitors. The polar or northern light aurora borealis occurs in the darker months, frequently at high latitudes Northern Norway but occasionaly also further South.
Norway is a Christian predominantly Lutheran country and the Lutheran church is a government institution. Christmas and Easter are major holidays and many Norwegians are away from work for a full week or more. The major holidays are Easter, Christmas Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day are all considered holidays, and the "common vacation" throughout July. In May there are several holidays including constitution day - the main national celebration and an attraction in itself. The Norwegian Constitution Day on May 17th is a celebration of the day in 1814 when Norway’s constitution was signed.The day is celebrated in every city and tiny village across the country - in the morning all the schoolchildren parade through their town or local community, singing, shouting and waving their flags - walking behind colorful banners that represent either their school or their class. Marching bands play.Everyone dresses up - many wear our colourful national costumes. After the Children's Parade, people usually gather in the school-yards for further celebrations: speeches, games for the kids, and food. The 17th of May is primarily the children's day - filled with ice cream, cotton candy, balloons and games. In most cities there are additional parades, usually in the afternoon, where all kinds of clubs & organizations take part - usually with a humourous aspect. Notice the 'russ' - 18-year-olds dressed in red, partying and celebrating after having finished 13 years of school. The russ might appear somewhat calm & quiet on the 17th - but that's only because they've been partying for a month non-stop. The 17th of May offers an opportunity to sample some of the traditional Norwegian dishes - such as "Rømmegrøt", a sour-cream porridge, served with cured meat. Salmon is also a National Day favourite.
Public holidays schools and offices closed:
January 1 - New Years day
Maundy Thursday Holy Thursday, "Skjærtorsdag"
Good Friday "Langfredag"
Easter Sunday "påskedag"
Second day of Easter Monday "andre påskedag"
May 1 - Labour day
May 17 - Constitution Day National Celebration in the streets
Ascension Thursday "Kristi himmelfart"
Pentecost Whit Sunday, "pinsedag"
Pentecost 2ed Whit Monday, "andre pinsedag"
December 25 - Christmas Day "juledag"
December 26 - Boxing Day "andre juledag"
Note that many Norwegian holidays are celebrated on the day before Holy Saturday, Christmas Eve etc. On Christmas Eve "julekveld", "julaften", New Years Eve "nyttårsaften", Holy Saturday "påskeaften" and Saturday before Pentecost "pinseaften" shops close early. Norwegians also celebrate midsummer at St. John's day on June 24 by making a bonfire late evening the day before - "St.John's Eve" "St.Hansaften" or "Jonsokaften".
Norway is well known for its amazing and varied scenery. The fjords in the west of the country are long narrow inlets, flanked on either side by tall mountains where the sea penetrates far inland. Norway was an old Viking kingdom. Economically it is known for its oil and seafood exports.
Norway is a sparsely populated country, roughly the same land size as Great Britain or Germany. It has a population of only 4.76 million people but a land area of 385,155 square kilometers. Thus, for each inhabitant there is 70,000 square meters of land, but the vast majority of this land is a rocky wilderness which is completely unusable for agricultural purposes. As a result, Norway has a large number of completely unpopulated areas, many of which have been converted to national parks. Even outside the national parks, much of the land is unspoiled nature, which Norwegians strive to keep unspoiled.
In winter, cross-country skiing, alpine skiing and snowboarding are very popular. In summer, hiking and biking are obvious ways to enjoy the enormous mountain areas. For the adventurous, kayaking, wildwater rafting, paragliding, cave or glacier exploration are possible. Car tourists will enjoy driving along the fjords and mountains in the west or to the midnight sun in the north. In short, Norway has a lot to offer in terms of nature. Norwegians take pride in keeping fit and being sporty a Sunday walk is not 20 min to the pub but rather three-four hours or more in the forest or up a mountain.
Norway is on a large peninsula shared with Sweden in the north of Europe. In the north, it also borders Finland and Russia. A large but loosely defined northern part of Norway and Sweden, as well as parts of Finland and Russia outlines an area known as Sapmi Sameland, which is where the most of the Sami people traditionally lived. Today, most of the Sami people live in the capital, Oslo.
A rugged landscape shaped by the Ice Age, shows forested hills and valleys, mountains, waterfalls, and a long coastline with fjords, islands, and mountains growing directly up from the sea. Norway's highest point is Galdhøpiggen, 2469m 8100ft in the Jotunheimen region that lies midway between Oslo and Trondheim, but away from the coast. In the far north Finnmark, you will find flatter open spaces. Several of the worlds greatest waterfalls (http://www.world-waterfal...) are in Norway, particularly in the western fjords and the mountain region.
Norway's primary income is the petroleum industry in the North Sea. It also has several other natural resources such as fish and minerals, some industry, and a healthy technology sector. Politically, it is dominated by a widespread and continued support for the Scandinavian model, which means high taxes and high government spending to support free schools, free healthcare, an efficient welfare system and many other benefits. As a result the unemployment rate in Norway is extremely low about 2%.
The Norwegian people have rejected membership in the European Union EU in two independent popular votes in 1972 and 1994, both times just by a few percent, after being vetoed out of membership by France in the 50s and 60s. However, being a member state of the European Economic Area and part of the Schengen agreement, Norway is closely connected to the EU, and integrated as a full member in most economic matters, as well as in customs and immigration matters. This is of great economic importance to Norway.
Norway is a Christian country, so Sunday is considered a holy day and most business are closed Sundays. Many gas stations are open 24-7, some shopping centres are partly open and restaurants are normally open, but this varies from place to place. Christmas and Easter are major holidays in Norway, and most Norwegians are on vacation for more than one week. Formally it is a Christian country with a dominant Lutheran majority of near 90 %, but this number is skewed by a type of automatic membership of the state church, where people become automatic members when they're baptised or if one of the parents is a member. In reality, roughly 3/4 is atheist or agnostic. Because of this, Norway has become rather liberal in moral issues and thus more similar to southern neighbors like Denmark and the Netherlands. Prostitution is as of 1.1.2009 illegal in Norway. Homosexuality is accepted by most people and recently 2008 same-sex marriage was given the same legal status as traditional marriage. For instance, a previous male minister of finance and prominent figure in the conservative party is in partnership with a prominent male business manager.
As one of the richest countries in the world and with a strong currency, most visitors should be prepared for greater expenses than at home. In addition, Norway has a very compressed wage structure which means that even the typical low skill work is relatively well paid. For the same reason, firms try to keep the number of staff as low as possible, even for low skill service work. On the other hand, many attractions in Norway are free of charge, most notably the landscape and nature itself.